During the months I’ve been absent from this blog, the cast of characters around here has changed. While I was in Sweden the guy I called Skippie literally sailed away in the night to avoid paying his late slip fee. He stopped back into town last week to take our other neighbor Portia out to dinner, but when the check came, he looked at it in horror and Portia ended up paying the bill. He’s that kind of guy. Florida is full of them.
Sid, who we never saw though he lived in apartment #3, went back to Hawaii; I can’t say I blame him. Pepé, our manager, finally finished the build-out on Apartment #2, with the wall adjoining ours, and a new tenant moved in. He appears to have a roommate (though DeFarge the landlord is not aware of this) and occasionally a dog and kids. Months of 90-100° days has kept everyone indoors so we haven’t seen much of them – we just hear them through the wall.
Don’t swim in the water
Greg and I long to have our own place – though perhaps not here. On July 1st my mother texted me, “Do you have green guacamole-like sludge water behind your house?” Maybe you heard about it in the news? The water in Florida’s big inland lake, which was created by the Army Corps of Engineers, had to be drained yet again. When they drain it the lake water inevitably brings with it all of the nasty runoff from upstate agriculture and who knows what else. Because of the extreme temperatures, the fertilizer-rich waters make an ideal breeding ground for toxic algae – so this time when they drained the lake, the algae came too. It did indeed look like guacamole but not much of it came into “the pocket” where we live. It pooled into some of the other pockets upriver, though, and lapped up along the shores of the St. Lucie River.
Several days before my mother’s text Portia and I decided to take a swim in the ocean. I knew about the algae blooms from Greg, since he works on the river. As we stepped into the water Portia remarked how abnormally un-clear it was. Then I looked closely at the water; it was awash in tiny bright-green particles.
“I think we better get out,” I said.
We got back in her car and drove south. Halfway down Jupiter island we stopped at Hobe Sound Beach where people were leaving the water in droves and from the top of the boardwalk we could see the brown water moving like a gigantic front, enveloping the blue. We drove another seven miles or so to Coral Cove: no algae. We swam for about a half hour. I haven’t been to the beach since.
In the morning, if I don’t have work, I get dressed in a tank top and umbros and go out and work on sanding the woodwork on our boat. Though Greg will do things like climb the mast at high noon, I can only stomach being outside when the temperatures are in the 80s. He says I just need to acclimate. But hey, I’m making progress. Bit by bit. On truly unbearable days we drive to the water park and cruise around the lazy river for a few hours.
There are things I dislike about Florida, but I’m finding ways to deal. I can’t stand the humidity and haven’t been running outside since March. But I just signed up for a gym membership for the first time in my life. I miss my communities of friends in other areas of the country and often feel like we live on the outskirts of civilization. But we’ve spent a lot of the summer traveling, which offsets the loneliness. And when we are home we go to trivia night at our local brewery and last night I looked around a saw a few people that I thought, yeah, we could be friends with them (ie., they don’t look like they’d do Flakka or listen to non-stop Jimmy Buffet radio). The availability of fresh local vegetables bums me out on a daily basis, but it’s fruit season so the trees have been overflowing with mangos and lychees and starfruit all summer and we’ve been making fruit wine. Of course we moved to Florida and started making hooch! Maybe I’ve acclimated more than Greg realizes.
Portia told me about a guy who tweets out actual headlines that begin with “Florida Man” – maybe you already know about it? She suggested I start a new blog called Florida woman. The moniker is taken, but I know what she means. Living here is like being in some sort of strange American sideshow. Just the other day I saw a job ad for a culinary instructor at the South Bay Correctional Facility, which is about 40 miles away. I googled the facility. There are actually reviews – it gets an average of almost four stars! Ronald gave it five. “If your going to do time,” he wrote, “this is the place.”
I had to see if this was standard protocol. Yep. And it’s not just a Florida thing – Rikers also comes highly rated. But it’s hard to tell whether some of these are jokes. Raoul gave the Lowell Correctional Institution five stars. “Lovely grounds and well appointed pool deck,” he waxed, “The rooms are a bit on the spartan side, but that’s to be expected. I’m not in much of a hurry to return, but you just never know what the future may bring.”
Portia bought a house last week, so she’ll be moving out soon. And while we talk about getting a house, we’re just as likely to get on that boat and sail away. You just never know what the future will bring.